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Leadership: In Turbulent Times

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Are leaders born or made? Where does ambition come from? How does adversity affect the growth of leadership? Does the leader make the times or do the times make the leader? In Leadership, Goodwin draws upon the four presidents she has studied most closely—Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Lyndon B. Johnson (in civil rights)—to show how they re Are leaders born or made? Where does ambition come from? How does adversity affect the growth of leadership? Does the leader make the times or do the times make the leader? In Leadership, Goodwin draws upon the four presidents she has studied most closely—Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Lyndon B. Johnson (in civil rights)—to show how they recognized leadership qualities within themselves and were recognized as leaders by others. By looking back to their first entries into public life, we encounter them at a time when their paths were filled with confusion, fear, and hope. Leadership tells the story of how they all collided with dramatic reversals that disrupted their lives and threatened to shatter forever their ambitions. Nonetheless, they all emerged fitted to confront the contours and dilemmas of their times. No common pattern describes the trajectory of leadership. Although set apart in background, abilities, and temperament, these men shared a fierce ambition and a deep-seated resilience that enabled them to surmount uncommon hardships. At their best, all four were guided by a sense of moral purpose. At moments of great challenge, they were able to summon their talents to enlarge the opportunities and lives of others.


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Are leaders born or made? Where does ambition come from? How does adversity affect the growth of leadership? Does the leader make the times or do the times make the leader? In Leadership, Goodwin draws upon the four presidents she has studied most closely—Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Lyndon B. Johnson (in civil rights)—to show how they re Are leaders born or made? Where does ambition come from? How does adversity affect the growth of leadership? Does the leader make the times or do the times make the leader? In Leadership, Goodwin draws upon the four presidents she has studied most closely—Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Lyndon B. Johnson (in civil rights)—to show how they recognized leadership qualities within themselves and were recognized as leaders by others. By looking back to their first entries into public life, we encounter them at a time when their paths were filled with confusion, fear, and hope. Leadership tells the story of how they all collided with dramatic reversals that disrupted their lives and threatened to shatter forever their ambitions. Nonetheless, they all emerged fitted to confront the contours and dilemmas of their times. No common pattern describes the trajectory of leadership. Although set apart in background, abilities, and temperament, these men shared a fierce ambition and a deep-seated resilience that enabled them to surmount uncommon hardships. At their best, all four were guided by a sense of moral purpose. At moments of great challenge, they were able to summon their talents to enlarge the opportunities and lives of others.

30 review for Leadership: In Turbulent Times

  1. 5 out of 5

    Faith

    This book has mini biographies of four presidents selected by the author as exemplars of leadership abilities: Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson. There is a chapter for each, under each of three themes: ambition and early recognition of leadership ability; adversity and growth; and how they led during crises in their presidencies. There is also an epilogue that describes the ends of their lives. Aside from Lincoln, I hadn't really thought about that, and This book has mini biographies of four presidents selected by the author as exemplars of leadership abilities: Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson. There is a chapter for each, under each of three themes: ambition and early recognition of leadership ability; adversity and growth; and how they led during crises in their presidencies. There is also an epilogue that describes the ends of their lives. Aside from Lincoln, I hadn't really thought about that, and it was interesting to learn that each man died relatively young, Lincoln in his 50s and the others in their 60s. Of course I learned a lot more than that from this book, and one of the best things about it was that it made me want to learn even more about each of these men. I liked reading about the early experiences that shaped these men, but the most interesting chapters to me were the ones describing how each president faced a particular crisis during his presidency. Lincoln struggled with when to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. Theodore Roosevelt faced a coal strike threatening the country. In 100 days during the Great Depression, Franklin Roosevelt had to lead the country through bank failures and create the New Deal programs. Johnson had a brief window after Kennedy was assassinated in which he could convince Congress to enact the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Since the author was also Johnson's biographer, this chapter of the book felt fuller and more immediate. It included other Johnson accomplishments like the voting rights act, Medicare, tax cuts, federal aid to education, Head Start, the Fair Housing Act of 1968 and the expansion of immigration to admit people other than Europeans. She also described his great failure, the Vietnam War, during which he made terrible decisions and lied to the public. It was nice to read about presidents who actually believed that the government could and should help people and that leaders could and should bring people together.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    Doris Kearns Goodwin pairs her superior research skills with an ability to recount history in a comprehensive manner to bring readers this wonderful book on political power in the most difficult situations. Patching together some of her past work on four American presidents, Goodwin examines the rise to power of each man, as well as how they were able to overcome significant adversity to right the proverbial apple cart. Goodwin chooses to explore the life and times of four men synonymous with gr Doris Kearns Goodwin pairs her superior research skills with an ability to recount history in a comprehensive manner to bring readers this wonderful book on political power in the most difficult situations. Patching together some of her past work on four American presidents, Goodwin examines the rise to power of each man, as well as how they were able to overcome significant adversity to right the proverbial apple cart. Goodwin chooses to explore the life and times of four men synonymous with great achievements throughout their lives: Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt (Teddy), Franklin Roosevelt (FDR), and Lyndon Johnson (LBJ). Told using three themes, Goodwin explores a rise to prominence, sustaining of power (including ascending to the presidency), and utilisation of that power when times were tough. In Goodwin’s examination of Lincoln, she tells of a gangly man who was always driven to better himself, even when others could not see his end goal. Lincoln loved to learn and questioned the status quo at every turn. When he chose to run for office, he was quite verbose in his explanation, but was able to win others over with his oratory skills, rather than simply following the pre-ordained path of the party under whose banner he sought to run. Winning a place, first in the Illinois Senate and eventually as a congressman, Lincoln sought to expand what was taking place by asking the questions about what else could be done. When he won the presidential election of 1860, Lincoln entered the White House in turbulent times. Goodwin examines many of the struggles he had, as the country tore itself apart, forcing him to take action. This included writing and delivering the Emancipation Proclamation, one of the greatest speeches that Lincoln ever gave. Goodwin seeks to argue that the speech itself was not the only struggle, but also Lincoln’s trying to pass it and keep his Cabinet together. Teddy Roosevelt was always a man who sought to do his own thing. His father was a daunting character in his life, but this did not stop Teddy from striving to excel. He was a man of many words, but also one who knew how to relate to everyone. Goodwin examines how Teddy could rise to any occasion and win over those who might otherwise not give him a second look. Playing politics in New York, Roosevelt was able to work within the GOP ranks and earn himself a senior bureaucratic position where he could exemplify his ‘man of the people’ persona. He shied away from little and, given the chance, changed in head first to meet adversity. A police commissioner helped him win the favour of New Yorkers, but he was not done there. After the assassination of President William McKinley, Roosevelt—who had been destined for the doldrums of obscurity when he was the vice-president—ascended into the White House. Unsure what to expect, he was saddled with a coal strike that almost paralyzed the country. While others would have let business and labour work out their differences, Teddy waded into those waters and diligently acted to solve the problem for the American people. Teddy’s fifth cousin, FDR, chose another path for his success. Born into significant wealth, Franklin Roosevelt was handed a congressional seat and told to run with it. FDR chose to represent the party well, using new and innovative techniques to get his name out to the masses in New York. He was a keen worker and would not let anything get in his way. When he was struck with polio, he faced what was surely his greatest obstacle, but FDR would not stand down. Forced to reinvent himself, with the help of his wife, FDR toppled the hurdles and ascended to the governor’s mansion in New York before riding the wave of success during America’s darkest days. Goodwin examines America’s reaction to the Great Depression before introducing FDR’s solution in a series of economic and social changes during those first one hundred days in office. Now a yardstick by which many presidents are measured, those first few months proved to be FDR’s way of staring down the despair and breathing new life into a shaky America. The final man under exploration is the irascible Lyndon Johnson, whose rise within Texas politics seemed almost pre-ordained. However, LBJ came from modest means and had to claw his way up the ladder, serving first as a teacher and principal in a small school. From there, he found new and exciting ways to work any crowd around him, earning him points wherever he went. As Goodwin explains, LBJ did politics the Texas away, not always by the book, but certainly represented those around him effectively. When he won national office, LBJ had to learn the ropes again, but his gumption helped him rise to power, where he served in both congressional houses with distinction, rubbing elbows with some of the big names in politics at the time. It was another assassination that saw LBJ assume the presidency, but he wasted no time in getting his agenda in order. As Goodwin shows, LBJ’s desire to ensure his predecessor’s desire to offer tax cuts and deliver civil rights to a significant portion of the underprivileged population. LBJ fought tooth and nail, using his experience in Congress, as well as numerous personal relationships to further this causes and ensure that America remained on the course towards success in the latter decades of the 20th century. Goodwin shows how the president refused to let congressional or regional walls stymie his ideals to bring equality to a country that was still feeling the effects of its Civil War a century before. Goodwin draws obvious parallels between the first and fourth of her study subjects to show how the argument of equality for all had come firm circle, subtly showing that all the bloodshed was, realistically, for naught. Still, LBJ would not give up on these domestic issues, even as his international realm fell apart the more intense the Vietnam War became. In her conclusion, Goodwin takes a final look at these men and how their deaths impacted America. Did the population learn from these men and were their legacies impactful? Goodwin sums everything up with some of her trademark blunt analysis, while offering the reader some hope as America returns to tumultuous times, even if the man at the helm could never hope to lead effectively. A sensational book that gets to the core of power in four men so very different but also so much alike. Adversity need not cripple anyone, as long as determination is your guide. Highly recommended to those who love political biographies and would love to see great men in action, as America suffers through new turbulent times. I thoroughly enjoy political biographies, particularly when they are well researched and written in such a way that anyone can enjoy them. Doris Kearns Goodwin has earn this reputation in her half-century of writing and exploring the world of politics through the eyes of a historian. While I have read comprehensive biographies of all four men, I left this piece with more knowledge and a better understanding of what it takes to steer the massive political ship that is the United States of America away from turbulence and hidden icebergs. Goodwin develops this piece, based on some of her past work writing about these men, creating threads that connect them, even as they differed so much. Taken a look at their rises to power, Goodwin compares them all in four introductory chapters, before forging ahead to discuss their ascents. This political build-up, while different in its path, can again be tied together by other threads, which makes up the four middle chapters. Then, when each man had been chosen to lead America (or moved into the position by assassination), they excelled greatly and used their own political acumen to pave the way to a better and more sustainable America. Goodwin argues that America was better for the leadership these four men exemplified, even if the history books offers varied judgment. The curious reader will take much away from this book, seeing themes between the four presidents that many might have missed before. Goodwin’s writing is easy to digest and her arguments are sound. She is a passionate and powerful storyteller who will not shy away from any challenge. As America is back in a time of tumult, with its people divided and politicians fighting more than in recent decades, this book is a refreshing look at how to REALLY make America great again! Kudos, Madam Goodwin, for dazzling us with your abilities. I hope many take the time to see your central arguments and discover how American political history comes to life under your pen. Like/hate the review? An ever-growing collection of others appears at: http://pecheyponderings.wordpress.com/ A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/...

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jean

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I also learned a few things about presidents, I have read many of their biographies. I am a big fan of Goodwin. She states she started working on this book in 2013 and it took her five years to research and write. I felt that the release of the book at this current time in our presidential affairs was quite pertinent. Goodwin wrote biographies over the years of each of the presidents. She chose for this book: Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Delano I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I also learned a few things about presidents, I have read many of their biographies. I am a big fan of Goodwin. She states she started working on this book in 2013 and it took her five years to research and write. I felt that the release of the book at this current time in our presidential affairs was quite pertinent. Goodwin wrote biographies over the years of each of the presidents. She chose for this book: Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Lindon Baines Johnson. The book is divided into three thematic areas: ambition and recognition of leadership; adversity and growth; and how they led. In the final section Goodwin examines different types of leadership: transformational, crisis management, turnaround and visionary. The book is well written and researched. I found it interesting that each president struggled with his own variety of emotional problems. Goodwin reveals how each president had different leadership abilities. I found the three case studies in part three most interesting. Goodwin has presented two republican presidents and two democrat presidents. The book is unbiased. The book is well organized and easy to read. Goodwin is a master storyteller; that skill brings history to life. I highly recommend this book. I read this as an audiobook downloaded from Audible. The book is just over eighteen hours. The narration was excellent. Goodwin narrated the introduction and epilog. Beau Bridges, David Morse, Jay O. Sanders and Richard Thomas each narrated a president. It was great having different narrators as it allowed distinction between each president.

  4. 5 out of 5

    TL

    I received this via Goodreads Giveaways in exchange for an honest review. All my opinions are my own. --- Short review since head is still on the mend (better than yesterday at least) The author is the history teacher I would have loved to have in high-school(aside from one in my school, the others weren't good at keeping me interested). She brings history alive and is good at keeping the reader engaged in the subjects she writes about. This one wasn't as good at Team of Rivals but was still an int I received this via Goodreads Giveaways in exchange for an honest review. All my opinions are my own. --- Short review since head is still on the mend (better than yesterday at least) The author is the history teacher I would have loved to have in high-school(aside from one in my school, the others weren't good at keeping me interested). She brings history alive and is good at keeping the reader engaged in the subjects she writes about. This one wasn't as good at Team of Rivals but was still an interesting read. It didn't feel as put together as it could have been though. If time travel were possible one day, I would love to go back and meet most of these men and just talk to them, observe them.. that would be amazing. More than once I found myself thinking "Were these men fated/born into their times because their souls would be needed and they were the only ones who could to what they did? Or did the times make them into the person the country needed? Or both?" Did that make sense? Haha, the author puts forth the same question better than me but it does make you wonder hmm? Looking at the title, I'm probably not the only guessing or wondering at the reason(s) she wrote it but one can only guess *shrugs* This one would be good as an introduction to new readers of her work. I only have one other of her books to judge by so far, so I can't say if longtime readers would enjoy this one or not.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Lorna

    Leadership: In Turbulent Times is a powerful look at the qualities of leadership exhibited, each in their own way, and as determined by history and the unique crises and challenges faced by four transformational presidents - Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson. Beloved historian Doris Kearns Goodwin separates her book into three sections: Ambition and the Recognition of Leadership; Adversity and Growth; and The Leader and the Times: How They Led. Kearns Go Leadership: In Turbulent Times is a powerful look at the qualities of leadership exhibited, each in their own way, and as determined by history and the unique crises and challenges faced by four transformational presidents - Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson. Beloved historian Doris Kearns Goodwin separates her book into three sections: Ambition and the Recognition of Leadership; Adversity and Growth; and The Leader and the Times: How They Led. Kearns Goodwin explores the transformational leadership of Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War and the implementation of the Emancipation Proclamation; the crisis leadership of Theodore Roosevelt in the wake of the industrial revolution dealing with economic and social issues at the beginning of the twentieth century; the turnaround leadership of Franklin Roosevelt as he assumed office in the wake of the depression and collapse of the economy focusing on the corrective measures that were implemented in the first hundred days; and the visionary leadership of Lyndon Johnson as he came to the presidency following the assassination of John Kennedy and vowing to establish sweeping civil rights legislation as part of his Great Society. In these turbulent and unsettling times, it is comforting to know that this country has not only survived adversity in the past, but has found ways to improve this nation.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Bruce Katz

    3.75 (yes, I know it’s silly, but it feels right). Goodwin is to my mind a national treasure. Her earlier books hold pride of place on my shelves. This new book, however, simply didn’t move me as much. I’m not sure when she decided to write it — I understand that years of research typically go into her books — but one can’t read Leadership without being reminded again and again of the many shortcomings of our current political leaders. Indeed, it might be that the deeply worrisome nature of our 3.75 (yes, I know it’s silly, but it feels right). Goodwin is to my mind a national treasure. Her earlier books hold pride of place on my shelves. This new book, however, simply didn’t move me as much. I’m not sure when she decided to write it — I understand that years of research typically go into her books — but one can’t read Leadership without being reminded again and again of the many shortcomings of our current political leaders. Indeed, it might be that the deeply worrisome nature of our times led her to engage in a different kind of project than she otherwise would have undertaken. In this book she looks at the four presidents with whom she is most familiar — Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, and LBJ — in an effort to distill what leadership qualities enabled them to accomplish as much as they did in such difficult circumstances. I found her conclusions somewhat less than convincing, perhaps because the exercise by its very nature allows the researcher to choose whatever traits and circumstances he/she likes to highlight, excluding everything else. I found myself being reminded of the many ‘secrets of successful leaders’ books I edited when I was in publishing. That said, there is much of interest in Leadership. It’s worth reading because her subjects are worthy of study, most of the points she makes seem valid (if not replicable), and because just about anything such an astute and gifted a researcher as Goodwin writes deserves serious attention. I’ll be interested to learn what others think of the book.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Donna Wetzel

    Thank you Goodreads and Doris Kearns Goodwin for my free copy of Leadership: In Turbulent Times. This is an excellent book which I thoroughly enjoyed reading. Ms. Goodwin has the ability to take complicated subject matter and transform it into easy to read and understand text. She is a storyteller like Abe Lincoln and Lyndon Johnson, who are two of the past presidents discussed in this book. She gives many examples to support her viewpoints as to why these men had such great leadership qualities Thank you Goodreads and Doris Kearns Goodwin for my free copy of Leadership: In Turbulent Times. This is an excellent book which I thoroughly enjoyed reading. Ms. Goodwin has the ability to take complicated subject matter and transform it into easy to read and understand text. She is a storyteller like Abe Lincoln and Lyndon Johnson, who are two of the past presidents discussed in this book. She gives many examples to support her viewpoints as to why these men had such great leadership qualities. On a personal note, not one of the qualities that were mentioned in the book, appear to be qualities President Trump possesses, but that is my personal opinion. Our current President is not mentioned in the book, yet the sharp contrasts to the current administration cannot be ignored.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Bryan Craig

    What makes a great leader? Are they born or bred? These are some of the questions Goodwin asks the reader. I really liked how Goodwin organized the material in her study of four great presidents: Lincoln, TR, FDR, and LBJ. She unpacks important traits of their childhood, how they recovered from their lowest points, and how they succeeded at their biggest moments as presidents. Other scholars remind us that presidential greatness is hard to find, and after reading this, this fact still holds true, What makes a great leader? Are they born or bred? These are some of the questions Goodwin asks the reader. I really liked how Goodwin organized the material in her study of four great presidents: Lincoln, TR, FDR, and LBJ. She unpacks important traits of their childhood, how they recovered from their lowest points, and how they succeeded at their biggest moments as presidents. Other scholars remind us that presidential greatness is hard to find, and after reading this, this fact still holds true, but Goodwin's easy writing style and important messages can inspire any one of us to be better at what we do. These four presidents all thought about something bigger for the country, held a strong vision of where they wanted to take the country, and asked the people to help. It seems many top-level politicians don't think in these terms, or if they do, they don't have humility or empathy. One critique is that Goodwin didn't examined the failed moments these presidents had in office with one exception: LBJ and Vietnam. I think we can learn about leadership from the failures as well as the successes.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Katy

    I came away impressed with all four presidents, but my opinion of Lyndon Johnson was increased the most. Probably because I knew the least about him going into the book and I was impressed with him as a leader and person. An awesome read.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Alisa

    Great book! Doris Kearns Goodwin has written a compelling treatise on leadership using four Presidents she has studied intimately as the central characters: Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson. For each President she describes their formative years and the forces that shaped their personal attributes, illustrates the role that adversity played early in their careers, and how they assumed the mantle as leaders during a critical point during their presidency. H Great book! Doris Kearns Goodwin has written a compelling treatise on leadership using four Presidents she has studied intimately as the central characters: Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson. For each President she describes their formative years and the forces that shaped their personal attributes, illustrates the role that adversity played early in their careers, and how they assumed the mantle as leaders during a critical point during their presidency. Her analysis is thought provoking, well researched, and told in a way that really brings out the personalities of each man. Goodwin is a masterful writer and story teller, and reading her work keeps you glued to the page. I'm fascinated by how Presidents, at least the good ones, rise to the occasion and what it is in each of them that makes them the right person for the right time, especially in times of bedrock-shaking challenge. This book offers a glimpse. Really well done, highly recommend.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jenna (Bookiemoji)

    Brilliant. I learned something about each president in their respective chapters. But became a bit muddled and long-winded when the author spoke by topic in the later half of the book and jumped between each president, sometimes mid-thought. Regardless, this is a very important book that I see doing well upon release. It’s a sad read, too, as it inadvertently highlights those things that are lacking in our current “leadership”.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Joseph Sciuto

    What a wonderful, wonderful book by the brilliant Doris Kearns Goodwin. Over the last couple of decades and especially now, I have asked myself, "Where have you gone George Washington, Abe Lincoln, T.R., Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Harry Truman and in a sense "Leadership in Turbulent Times" by Mrs. Goodwin has answered that question. They having gone anywhere, but apparently the leadership in our country has refused to study and emulate these men; whereas the four Presidents in this book, Lin What a wonderful, wonderful book by the brilliant Doris Kearns Goodwin. Over the last couple of decades and especially now, I have asked myself, "Where have you gone George Washington, Abe Lincoln, T.R., Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Harry Truman and in a sense "Leadership in Turbulent Times" by Mrs. Goodwin has answered that question. They having gone anywhere, but apparently the leadership in our country has refused to study and emulate these men; whereas the four Presidents in this book, Lincoln, T.R., Franklin Roosevelt and Johnson, understood the importance of history and the history of our country and what the Founders envisioned and most importantly what America stands for. All four Presidents had many things in common, but a few things that really stand out is that all of them put country above themselves and formed an intimacy with all the American people, despite class, race, or religion. When Franklin Roosevelt died a reporter noted, "One man has died and 130 million people feel alone." Before reading this book I had read a lot about Presidents Lincoln and T.R, some about President Franklin Roosevelt but virtually nothing about President Johnson. The Viet Nam War has so defined his Presidency that it is only after reading this book that I have come away with an appreciation for his legislative accomplishments, which until this day, have not been equaled by any U. S. Administration ... From Civil Rights and Health Care ... To Voting Rights and Equal Housing. The "Great Society" literally transformed the American Landscape. Despite whatever previous knowledge I had about the other 3 Presidents, I nevertheless learned a lot more about each, and especially how they approached the most pressing issues and tragedies of all time. "Whatever can be done today, cannot wait until tomorrow." I highly recommend this book. Thank you Mrs. Goodwin.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Alan Tomkins-Raney

    Goodwin, a gifted writer and esteemed historian, structured this book as a series of case studies in presidential leadership. Her subjects for our consideration are Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson. The book is divided into three sections. The first two sections read more like standard mini-biographies as they discuss first, each man's ambition and recognition of his own leadership potential, and second, periods of adversity and growth that profo Goodwin, a gifted writer and esteemed historian, structured this book as a series of case studies in presidential leadership. Her subjects for our consideration are Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson. The book is divided into three sections. The first two sections read more like standard mini-biographies as they discuss first, each man's ambition and recognition of his own leadership potential, and second, periods of adversity and growth that profoundly mark each man and develop his character and leadership capacity. The third section of the book is the part that I enjoyed the most and found to be the most informative and fascinating. This portion of the book reads like a political science or civics textbook and reveals in vivid detail how they lead during the fraught and turbulent times when they truly made history. The riveting narrative, details, and inspired insight of this section of the book is why I gave this volume five stars. I must add that as I was reading this book, I did feel comforted by the reminder that we do have a unique form of government through which dedicated public servants of exceptional character and ambition can achieve wondrous results for their country during turbulent times when the populace is fearful and roiled. We may not currently have leadership that can inspire and unify the citizenry, but we have had it in the past, and to me that provides hope that we ought to certainly be capable of it again in time. I really liked this book. For me studying history can provide hope and inspire me to better my own character and abilities to apply in regular day to day life. In this sense, I feel like I learned the most from Abe Lincoln and FDR, but I enjoyed the whole book. LBJ was fascinating as always. As for TR, I didn't get much out of his example, but I suppose others may. I definitely recommend this book for students and fans of history and politics.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Teri

    Doris Kearns Goodwin profiles four past presidents who endured tumultuous times during their administrations. Abraham Lincoln had to work through warring factions in the US to see the Emancipation Proclamation become law. Teddy Roosevelt had to deal with a miners strike. FDR took over the country during the depression, seeing multiple programs and projects instituted for his New Deal to come to fruition to stabilize the country's economy. Lyndon Baines Johnson took over as president when the nat Doris Kearns Goodwin profiles four past presidents who endured tumultuous times during their administrations. Abraham Lincoln had to work through warring factions in the US to see the Emancipation Proclamation become law. Teddy Roosevelt had to deal with a miners strike. FDR took over the country during the depression, seeing multiple programs and projects instituted for his New Deal to come to fruition to stabilize the country's economy. Lyndon Baines Johnson took over as president when the nation lost JFK to an assassin's bullet. He worked hard to see Civil Rights legislation passed during a tumultuous time in our history. All four men had specific leadership qualities that allowed them to persevere through trials and tribulations during their administrations to achieve major goals in moving our country forward. Are these qualities learned or ingrained in these men? They all had uphill battles throughout their lives and their learned experiences in life certainly contributed to their leadership styles. Goodwin looks at the lives of these men in three sections. The first section covers their young lives and leadership traits they developed before their foray into politics. The second section described some of the hardships they endured in life and their uphill battle getting into politics. The final section covers a specific case study for each president: Emancipation Proclamation, miner's strike, New Deal programs, and Civil Rights legislation. For each president, Goodwin details the leadership qualities that helped these men persevere through turbulent times to become great leaders. I enjoy Goodwin's writing and how she analyzed each president and their leadership qualities. They were not perfect men, so she did show some of their flaws. In the final chapters, she focused on specific case studies that showed these qualities and the strengths of each man. She did not go into other issues that the presidents dealt with, outside of a brief discussion on the Vietnam war. That seemed a little out of place. I liked how Goodwin focused on one aspect of each man to really show what makes a person a great leader.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Helga Cohen

    In Leadership, Goodwin explores leadership qualities from four presidents she has studied most closely. Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War, Theodore Roosevelt during the coal strike, Franklin Roosevelt during his first 100 days, and Lyndon Johnson in civil rights. She explores how they recognize leadership qualities within themselves and how they were recognized as leaders by others. We see how they entered public life and how they were filled with confusion, adversity, confusion and hope. Abra In Leadership, Goodwin explores leadership qualities from four presidents she has studied most closely. Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War, Theodore Roosevelt during the coal strike, Franklin Roosevelt during his first 100 days, and Lyndon Johnson in civil rights. She explores how they recognize leadership qualities within themselves and how they were recognized as leaders by others. We see how they entered public life and how they were filled with confusion, adversity, confusion and hope. Abraham Lincoln showed transformational leadership as he expanded the North’s war aims from union to emancipation through the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation. He wanted emancipation for all and was determined to get agreement from his rivals to accomplish it. Theodore Roosevelt provides leadership through crisis management by how he brought labor and management to the forefront during the Great Cold Strike of 1902 and solved the crisis and brought consensus. Franklin Roosevelt responded in a masterful way projecting leadership in his first 100 days with his response during the Great Depression. He implemented the New Deal and closed the banks then slowly opened them in order to save them and regain the people’s confidence. Lyndon Johnson demonstrated his leadership by using all the forces at his disposal by persuading Congress and the Senate and every one of interest in passing the Civil Rights Act (1964) and the Voting Rights Act (1965). This altered the legal terms of how blacks and whites interacted and could become integrated in all facets of life. Goodwin describes the early lives of each of these men and how they grew into their leadership roles through adversity and fortitude. Leaders must know themselves and their own times if they want to change them. It requires wisdom which they showed in abundance. She also showed the humanity of these four great leaders which was uplifting. Goodwin is a great historian and terrific writer. In this book she used materials from her earlier books but organized them in a different context to explore the leadership aspects in these presidents. She did a masterful job in combining biographical detail with historical context. She writes with insight and gives us hope. I highly recommend this book.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kasa Cotugno

    Doris Kearns Goodwin breathes life into material that she's mined before. This audio version benefits from the contribution of four well known actors, each representing a president she had researched in depth (i.e., Beau Bridges reads the sections on LBJ). Since that research was so immersive, she came to think of Lincoln, T. Roosevelt, FD Roosevelt and LBJ as "her guys," and what each had in common was the power to lead the country in times of crisis. In her portraits, limning their paths to th Doris Kearns Goodwin breathes life into material that she's mined before. This audio version benefits from the contribution of four well known actors, each representing a president she had researched in depth (i.e., Beau Bridges reads the sections on LBJ). Since that research was so immersive, she came to think of Lincoln, T. Roosevelt, FD Roosevelt and LBJ as "her guys," and what each had in common was the power to lead the country in times of crisis. In her portraits, limning their paths to the White House, she points out the fact that they each possessed an extraordinary amount of empathy and lawfulness, two qualities she feels lacking in the current occupant.

  17. 4 out of 5

    John of Canada

    It,s appropriate that Goodwin spent so much of this discussing the story telling methods of Lincoln and TR.The research in this book was exemplary,but what really made this such a good book to me was that I felt as if I was sitting in a room with her listening to her tell stories about these four great men.I am interested in history,even more so as it is told by fabulous writers like Doris.I also learned a lot of new words!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Tony

    LEADERSHIP IN TURBULENT TIMES. (2018). Doris Kearns Goodwin. ***1/2. Ms. Kearns is a former winner of the Pulitzer Prize for her study of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. She has taken the opportunity to select her four favorite presidents – the ones she has studied the most – and attempted to chart the characteristics they had in common that allowed them to reach the pinnacle of success within their careers. The four candidates for her further study included Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, LEADERSHIP IN TURBULENT TIMES. (2018). Doris Kearns Goodwin. ***1/2. Ms. Kearns is a former winner of the Pulitzer Prize for her study of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. She has taken the opportunity to select her four favorite presidents – the ones she has studied the most – and attempted to chart the characteristics they had in common that allowed them to reach the pinnacle of success within their careers. The four candidates for her further study included Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson. It was not a surprise to me that she found similar traits and behavior among all four that could be pointed to as being responsible for their success. Each of these men exhibited qualities of leadership that Mr. Goodwin ultimately broke down into four different categories: Transformational Leadership, Crisis Leadership, Turnaround Leadership, and Visionary Leadership. I didn’t find any surprises here, but her overarching conclusions about the set of four were what we would be forced to anticipate from our own former knowledge of history. Her conclusions about these four men entrench them as role models demonstrating leadership in their fields, and she makes the case for choosing them from the many potential candidates available for their special talents and achievements.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Dan Graser

    With characteristic erudition and thoroughness, Doris Kearns Goodwin achieves an answer to the main questions she was asking with this book: “Are leaders born or made? Where does ambition come from? How does adversity affect the growth of leadership? Does the leader make the times or do the times make the leader?” She centers this extensive answer around four different types of leaders who happen to share the distinction of having been elected President: the transformational leadership of Lincoln, With characteristic erudition and thoroughness, Doris Kearns Goodwin achieves an answer to the main questions she was asking with this book: “Are leaders born or made? Where does ambition come from? How does adversity affect the growth of leadership? Does the leader make the times or do the times make the leader?” She centers this extensive answer around four different types of leaders who happen to share the distinction of having been elected President: the transformational leadership of Lincoln, the crisis leadership of Teddy Roosevelt, the turnaround leadership of FDR, and the visionary leadership of Lyndon Johnson. This is no hagiography and is quite explicit on where it is that these figures fell short of the mark as pertains to effectively or wisely leading, however, the main focus is their unique attributes that were borne out in successful governing when they were tested to the extreme by various fractious elements of their respective political and sociocultural landscapes. Each is profiled through three major time periods common to them all: 1) Ambition and the recognition of leadership. 2) Adversity and growth. 3) The leader and the times: How they led. Godwin’s extensive expertise with these figures needs no explanation given the success of her previous works nor does the weight of historical rigor and perspicacity of observation she brings to bear. This is just great reading with a very important focus, on which Goodwin is relentless in her detail.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jo Ann

    I am always so impressed with the thorough manner in which Goodwin researches, and writes, about her subjects, and this book is impressive as well. It's a fascinating look at the 2 Roosevelt presidents, Lincoln, and Johnson, and comparisons and differences between what made them tick, what their motivations, strengths, weaknesses, were. Well done!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Pam

    I enjoyed listening to this book read by different excellent readers for each president. The author has such a vast knowledge about Lincoln, Johnson, and both Roosevelts which made this an insightful look into presidential leadership.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Bob

    Summary: A study of how four presidents led the nation during turbulent times, tracing their awakening leadership ambitions, the adversity that formed their character, and lessons from how they led. What distinguishes great leadership from the ordinary or the mediocre? Are leaders born or made? Are leaders great because of, or in spite of, their times? For answers to these and other questions about leadership, many have studied different U.S. Presidents, individuals with, arguably, the most chall Summary: A study of how four presidents led the nation during turbulent times, tracing their awakening leadership ambitions, the adversity that formed their character, and lessons from how they led. What distinguishes great leadership from the ordinary or the mediocre? Are leaders born or made? Are leaders great because of, or in spite of, their times? For answers to these and other questions about leadership, many have studied different U.S. Presidents, individuals with, arguably, the most challenging leadership job in the world. Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin has made a career of studying presidents, publishing four landmark biographies on Lyndon Johnson, Franklin Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, (and his successor William Howard Taft). In this work, she returns to these four figures, and considers them side by side--four very different men, each who met great challenges and decisively led the nation through them. The book is organized into three parts. The first traces the awakening ambition of each man. Lincoln leaves an abusive father, educates himself, establishes a law practice and makes his first run for office. Teddy Roosevelt grows up mentored by a respected and wealthy father, overcomes physical weakness, marries Alice, who he met while in college, and goes to the New York legislature "rising like a rocket." Franklin Roosevelt, a distant relative of Theodore, enjoyed strong formative relationships with both parents, was sociable, learning more by listening than by reading, meeting the president as a young man, and charting a career trajectory that followed in Teddy's path. Lyndon Johnson was described as a "steam engine in pants," who learned early to find paths to power by getting near the powerful, beginning with work as an assistant to his college president. The second part looks at the role adversity played in the lives of each man and how it deepened and focused their ambitions. Lincoln, who went to the legislature with a program of infrastructure improvements, left office after a term, in shame, unable to fulfill his pledge to marry Mary Todd, because of the failure of the economy and the collapse of the programs he helped start. He was depressed to the point that friends considered the threat of suicide. He determined that "he must die or be better." Teddy Roosevelt lost his beloved wife and his mother within hours, and fled to a ranch in the west where work with tough and resilient men formed his health and healed his soul. He resolved to return, beginning a career as a progressive reformer that eventually took him to the presidency. Franklin Roosevelt was struck down in the prime of life with polio, and rebuilt his upper body strength, started a polio clinic at Sulphur Springs, and finally was convinced and convinced others that he could pursue the highest office. Lyndon Johnson, shortly after becoming Senate Majority Leader has a heart attack, a determines to return to the social programs, including civil rights, that had been at the heart of his early ambitions but had gotten lost in a quest for political power. The final part looks at how each led during the turbulent time in which they were president--Lincoln in the Civil War and making the Emancipation Proclamation, Teddy Roosevelt in using his office to resolve a protracted national coal strike, Franklin Roosevelt in turning around the country and giving it hope in the depths of the Depression, and Johnson, in succeeding to the office after the Kennedy assassination, and passing a sweeping program of social legislation from civil and voting rights to Medicare. In the third part, Goodwin draws lessons from the leadership of each president. Here, for example, are the lessons drawn from Lincoln's presidency: *Acknowledge when failed policies demand a change in direction. *Gather firsthand information, ask questions. *Find time and space in which to think. *Exhaust all possibility of compromise before imposing unilateral executive power. *Anticipate contending viewpoints. *Assume full responsibility for a pivotal decision. *Understand the emotional needs of each member of the team. *Refuse to let past resentments fester, transcend personal vendetta. *Set a standard of mutual respect and dignity; control anger. *Shield colleagues from blame. *Maintain perspective in the face of both accolades and abuse. *Find ways to cope with pressure, maintain balance, replenish energy. *Keep your word. *Know when to hold back, when to move forward. *Combine transactional and transformational leadership. *Be accessible, easy to approach. *Put ambition for the collective interest above self-interest. Each point is elaborated with specific examples. One gains both an appreciation of the personal greatness of each president, and the hard and soft skills of each president. Obviously, this is a great text for any who aspire to lead, if one has the drive, like Lincoln, to be better. It also sets a high bar in the qualities we look for in our presidents. She goes lightly on shortcomings, apart from a discussion of the failure of Johnson's handling of Vietnam. Having read three of the four presidential books by Doris Kearns Goodwin, I wondered if this would just be a re-hash of her prior works, re-treading old material. Certainly, she draws upon that and her narrative of working with Lyndon Johnson tracks closely with that in her Johnson book. What is fresh and distinct in this book is how she focuses in on leadership, as well as the setting of these four presidents side by side. Each of the succeeding presidents she studies was influenced by the former--Teddy Roosevelt by Abraham Lincoln, Franklin by Teddy, Johnson by Franklin Roosevelt. This book is a challenge, in what many of us would consider a turbulent time, to the kind of people we will be, and the kind of people we choose to serve in leading us.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Ctgt

    Kearns takes a look at four presidents- Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson and presents what she believes made them great leaders. The book is broken in to 3 parts; 1. The early years, 2. a pivotal professional moment and 3. a specific time when they each had to display leadership. Obviously there is a ton of information about all these men but Kearns does a good job of taking this info and shedding light on a particular aspect of their lives and legacy. 8/10

  24. 5 out of 5

    George P.

    The best way to study leadership is to study leaders. How they exercised influence in their contexts provides examples of how we can do so in ours. For this reason, it is paramount for leaders to be well-versed in biography and history, the knowledge of people and their times. Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Leadership in Turbulent Times provides case studies of the leadership of four U.S. presidents at critical junctures in their administrations: 1. Abraham Lincoln exemplifies transformational leadership The best way to study leadership is to study leaders. How they exercised influence in their contexts provides examples of how we can do so in ours. For this reason, it is paramount for leaders to be well-versed in biography and history, the knowledge of people and their times. Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Leadership in Turbulent Times provides case studies of the leadership of four U.S. presidents at critical junctures in their administrations: 1. Abraham Lincoln exemplifies transformational leadership as he expanded the North’s war aims from union to emancipation through the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation. 2. Theodore Roosevelt provides a model of crisis management by how he brought labor and management to the table during the Great Coal Strike of 1902. 3. Exuding optimism and executing a plan to respond to the Great Depression in his first 100 days, Franklin Delano Roosevelt offers a master class in turnaround leadership. 4. And Lyndon Johnson demonstrates visionary leadership by using all the forces at his disposal — including persuasion and hardball politics — to pass the Civil Rights Act (1964) and Voting Rights Act (1965), fundamentally altering the legal terms under which whites and blacks related to one another. Goodwin presents these case studies in Part III of her book, “The Leader and the Times: How They Led.” Of each president’s White House years, she writes: “There, at their formidable best, when guided by a sense of moral purpose, they were able to channel their ambitions and summon their talents to enlarge the opportunities and lives of others.” But those ambitions and talents didn’t emerge de novo or ex nihilo. The four presidents were influenced by circumstances just as much as they in turn influenced them. Part I, “Ambition and the Recognition of Leadership,” narrates the burgeoning sense of possibility each president experienced in his 20s especially, along with the recognition by their peers that they were destined for greater things. Part II, “Adversity and Growth,” shows how each one faced a test or series of tests that forced them to ask deeper questions of their life’s meaning — questions that, once answered, steeled their commitment to lead. Finally, an Epilogue examines how each man reflected on his enduring reputation, a fame that would last beyond both his administration and his death. How would they be remembered by posterity? As with Goodwin’s previous works on these four presidents, Leadership in Turbulent Times is a gripping read, combining biographical detail and historical context. It is the addition of shrewd insights about leadership throughout the book that marks a departure from her earlier biographies. Those insights are well-grounded and explicit. One of the great dangers of drawing lessons from biography or history is that such lessons smooth over differences, whether among the subjects of  biographical inquiry, or between their times and our own. Doris Kearns Goodwin is well aware of this danger and largely avoids it. The leadership principles she draws organically arise from the events she narrates. Here’s how she explains the matter in the book’s Foreword: "These four extended examples show how their leadership fit the historical moment as a key fits a lock. No key is exactly the same; each has a different line of ridges and notches along its blade. While there is neither a master key to leadership nor a common lock of historical circumstance, we can detect a certain family resemblance of leadership traits as we trace the alignment of leadership capacity within its historical context." That “family resemblance of leadership traits,” the book’s explicit lesson, is what leaders will most appreciate about Leadership in Turbulent Times. Its implicit lesson is that leaders must know themselves and their own times if they want to change them. Leadership never occurs in a vacuum where principles can be applied automatically. Rather, it requires wisdom. Like the biblical men of Issachar, leaders understand the times and know just what to do (1 Chronicles 12:32). Book Reviewed Doris Kearns Goodwin, Leadership in Turbulent Times (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2018). P.S. If this review helped you form an opinion of the book, please click “Helpful” on my Amazon review page. P.P.S. This review is cross-posted from InfluenceMagazine.com with permission.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Megan

    Ever since I read Team of Rivals back in 2005, I have been a big fan of Doris Kearns Goodwin. She is not only a masterful historian but also an incredible storyteller. So when I saw Leadership: In Turbulent Times come out in 2018, I knew that I had to read it. Goodwin poses some very interesting questions at the beginning of Leadership. "Are leaders born or made? Does the leader make the times or do the times make the leader?" To answer these questions, Goodwin looked to four presidents: Abraham Ever since I read Team of Rivals back in 2005, I have been a big fan of Doris Kearns Goodwin. She is not only a masterful historian but also an incredible storyteller. So when I saw Leadership: In Turbulent Times come out in 2018, I knew that I had to read it. Goodwin poses some very interesting questions at the beginning of Leadership. "Are leaders born or made? Does the leader make the times or do the times make the leader?" To answer these questions, Goodwin looked to four presidents: Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Lyndon B. Johnson. I have to be honest, I was dubious about her selection of Johnson. I assumed that her own personal bias (she worked on his memoirs) had made her choose Johnson. However, I was happy to be mistaken as I learned more about Johnson and his leadership in the civil rights movement. Throughout Leadership, Goodwin looked at each president individually: how they became leaders, how they dealt with adversity in their personal and political lives, and what kind of leadership they practiced as president. I definitely knew the most about Lincoln and the two Roosevelts, as I had read more about them and they are also revered as great presidents. I admired and enjoyed Goodwin's descriptions of Abraham Lincoln's transformational leadership, Theodore Roosevelt's crisis leadership, and FDR's turnaround leadership. But it was the chapters about Johnson and his visionary leadership that really stood out to me. Unfortunately, history has assigned Johnson to the role of bad president for his failures in international policy and the Vietnam War. And while those failures cannot (and should not) be forgotten, Johnson's domestic policies and leadership achieved more for the civil rights movement than any other leader since Lincoln. Goodwin has ensured that Johnson's contributions are remembered; I know that I truly gained an appreciation for his leadership and for the steps he took to ensure that one day all Americans would be free. Leadership is incredibly well-written and researched. Goodwin showed how four very different presidents were similar in their ability to lead in times of crises. While I always learn a lot from her books, I also truly enjoy reading them. While perhaps not her intention, Goodwin's Leadership is a reminder of how leaders should lead in turbulent times.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Lynne

    When Doris Kearns Goodwin has a new book, I'm always interested in checking it out at the very least. This time I was lucky enough to look at the audio book first. Through the lives of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson, Goodwin illustrates what leadership means and what traits are necessary to be a true leader. I'm not sure whether it was intentional or not (although I believe it was) she shows that it happens regardless of party by using these particular When Doris Kearns Goodwin has a new book, I'm always interested in checking it out at the very least. This time I was lucky enough to look at the audio book first. Through the lives of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson, Goodwin illustrates what leadership means and what traits are necessary to be a true leader. I'm not sure whether it was intentional or not (although I believe it was) she shows that it happens regardless of party by using these particular men. The book covers each man in turn through their early lives, then as they gained power, and eventually as they came into their own through their leadership skills. In the audio book there is a separate narrator for each of the men. I was particularly drawn to this version upon seeing that Richard Thomas and Beau Bridges narrated the sections involving two of the Presidents. Having heard them read on various other audio books, I know that they are very good at doing this and are among my favorites. The other two voices on this audio come from David Morse and Jay O. Sanders who are equally good. The change in narrator for each President makes for a nice listening experience. As always, Goodwin writes with a very readable and enjoyable style and depth of knowledge. I'm familiar with books she wrote on two of these presidents and have heard her talk about working for Johnson early in her career and subsequently helping as he wrote his memoirs. Her knowledge of the subjects is unquestionable, but this is more than just a biographical book. These four men come from varied backgrounds and their experiences are certainly wide and varied. However, Goodwin uses these lives and experiences to discuss the traits that make a leader. Given our lack of true leadership in government today, this book is timely and important. It highlights the dearth of leadership we see today using the contrast between people in power now and those she writes about. It also illustrates what we need in order to have effective government. Highly recommended reading.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth S

    As with the other DKG books that I've read, this is excellent and easy to read. I learned the most about LBJ (since I previously read biographies of the other three). History seems to have forgotten his amazing domestic achievements due to the mess of his foreign policy decisions. I appreciated how, in the chapter about Johnson's presidency, Goodwin described his great leadership first, matching the great leadership of the other presidents in the book. And then giving the brief overview of his f As with the other DKG books that I've read, this is excellent and easy to read. I learned the most about LBJ (since I previously read biographies of the other three). History seems to have forgotten his amazing domestic achievements due to the mess of his foreign policy decisions. I appreciated how, in the chapter about Johnson's presidency, Goodwin described his great leadership first, matching the great leadership of the other presidents in the book. And then giving the brief overview of his failures. It was a good way for me to learn more about him. I also appreciated how Goodwin highlighted the various leadership skills as section headings. By doing that, she emphasized the leadership qualities within the various stories. So they weren't just stories, they were lectures on leadership. The wrap-up of the book was also well done. She discusses the post-presidential lives of the 2 that lived beyond office, and then the 2 that died as the president. Ending with Lincoln's death was a dramatic conclusion. One (of many) great quotations from the book: "Regardless of one's impressive title, power without purpose and without vision was not the same thing as leadership" (page 200). Even though the quotation is from a Lincoln chapter, I think the principle is best demonstrated in LBJ's chapter. Of the four presidents in the book, LBJ's tenure was the least urgent. Despite the greatness of their leadership abilities, I often wonder if Lincoln or FDR would be seen as awesome leaders without the great crises that dominated their presidencies. LBJ shows us that great leaders, with purpose and vision, can accomplish great things no matter the situation. (The great things may not be as dramatic, but they are definitely great.)

  28. 5 out of 5

    Chris Witkowski

    This book reminds me of a doctoral thesis, with the subject being the analysis of the personal characteristics that make a good leader in trying times. She provides case studies of four presidents: Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson. She examines their early lives, pointing out crises they experienced, and posits that their ability to weather those circumstances led to the qualities needed later when, as president, and faced with immense challenges, they were This book reminds me of a doctoral thesis, with the subject being the analysis of the personal characteristics that make a good leader in trying times. She provides case studies of four presidents: Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson. She examines their early lives, pointing out crises they experienced, and posits that their ability to weather those circumstances led to the qualities needed later when, as president, and faced with immense challenges, they were able to provide the leadership the country desperately needed. The qualities that Goodwin lists are numerous, but one of the most crucial, in my opinion, is empathy. Being able to identify with the downtrodden, the enslaved, the poverty-stricken, the discriminated, enabled those four presidents to see that changes were needed. How each of them was then able to steer the country in the direction of change makes for fascinating reading. Lyndon Johnson's story, though, has a twist. While he was able to push through legislation, in a very short time, to push his Great Society agenda, ensuring voting rights, civil rights protections and tax reform, he is most remembered for the complete mishandling of the Vietnam War, an ironic and sad fact. One cannot read this book without reflecting on the leadership, or lack thereof, that our country is experiencing today. While these presidents were faced with a crisis and overcame it, it seems as though our president is the one creating crises. Where are the leaders of today?

  29. 4 out of 5

    Drtaxsacto

    I like Kearns Goodwin - anyone who can write convincingly on everything from baseball to superb biographies of leaders has to have something going. But this book is not close to one of her best. Its subjects should not have been a surprise - KG has written individual biographies of each of the subjects in her book (Lincoln, TR, FDR and LBJ). The book adds some new anecdotes for each of the leaders considered so there are some morsels. But I have two problems with the book - her underlying theory I like Kearns Goodwin - anyone who can write convincingly on everything from baseball to superb biographies of leaders has to have something going. But this book is not close to one of her best. Its subjects should not have been a surprise - KG has written individual biographies of each of the subjects in her book (Lincoln, TR, FDR and LBJ). The book adds some new anecdotes for each of the leaders considered so there are some morsels. But I have two problems with the book - her underlying theory that kinetic activity - even at the expense of the other branches of government - is what defines a good leader is wrong headed. I also think her choice of four leaders is unconvincing and pedestrian. Every president faces challenges. I am not a fan of three of the four presidents covered in this book. Clearly she believes in the centrality of the role of the president but it is in the spirit of James McGregor Burns. In my mind the best presidents had a superb ability to bring people together. Lincoln, either necessarily or because he could, operated under a good part of his presidency with martial law. TR was a classic self serving politician. He was in many ways manic (as Kearns' superb individual biography points out). It is certainly reasonable to argue that FDRs chaotic management style might have delayed the economic recovery from the Great Depression. And although she covers the tragedy of Vietnam (in the chapter on LBJ she makes the bizarre argument that JFK was more focused on international issues - wasn't he the President who said "Ask not what you can do for your country...." JFK was at best indifferent to working the Congress and thus his initiatives for domestic policy were left on the floor. The best part of the book is her descriptions of LBJs effort to get the Civil Rights Bill done. What concerns me about this book is that she could have chosen leaders who understood how to operate in turbulent times (both Reagan and Truman fit the bill or even perhaps Grover Cleveland) and had a much more defensible thesis and more entertaining book.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Dick Reynolds

    Ms. Goodwin gives us splendid portraits of four American presidents who led our country decisively and successfully through terrible events. Although it’s historical nonfiction the stories read like fine novels with memorable characters and exciting plots. The book is organized in three main sections: Ambition and the Recognition of Leadership, Adversity and Growth, and The Leader and the Times. Within each of these sections we learn how Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndo Ms. Goodwin gives us splendid portraits of four American presidents who led our country decisively and successfully through terrible events. Although it’s historical nonfiction the stories read like fine novels with memorable characters and exciting plots. The book is organized in three main sections: Ambition and the Recognition of Leadership, Adversity and Growth, and The Leader and the Times. Within each of these sections we learn how Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson led our country. Each of these men experienced events that disrupted their lives but they emerged in better shape to deal with many serious challenges. They also shared a fierce ambition and resilience that enabled them to overcome their unique hardships. While reading this book I paused many times to consider and contrast these leaders and their historic crises with the leadership challenges facing our country today. North Korea is threatening the world’s safety with nuclear weapons and Russia is interfering with our elections while we are still fighting undeclared wars in Syria and Afghanistan. As I write this, the stock market has cratered, key individuals are leaving the highest ranks of the federal administration, and our government is shut down because the Congress and our president cannot agree on how to manage immigration at our border with Mexico. Ms. Goodwin might summarize the situation this way: in today’s polarized world, these stories of authentic leadership in times of fracture and fear take on a singular urgency.

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